on 13 July 2013
An interesting historical overview of the intelligence informer, tracing the roots of the practice of snitching and its contemporary manifestation. In terms of the motivation to inform, it seems not much has changed since the days of the Roman Empire.
What the book makes clear, is that snitching and informing are much more prevalent than we think, as is the scope of who is affected by it. The author himself claims to have been a victim of the practice. The book explores not only the role of informers as information gatherers, but also their role as agent provocateurs, an aspect which has gained much prominence since the beginning of the war on terror. Informers acting as agent provocateurs are now supplying the plan, training, targets, weapons, significant monetary incentives and above all pressure on their victims to commit acts of terror, only for them to be arrested shortly after.
To gain a comprehensive understanding of the impact and aims surrounding informing and informers in the modern context of vast organized bureaucratic intelligence empires, Sandra Spiegel-Schliemann's book "Zersetzen: Strategie einer Diktatur," provides a valuable and comprehensive account of the practice within the former GDR. Unfortunately it is available only in German. But the gist of her analysis of former Stasi documents breaks down as follows: "The acts of informers need to be viewed within the totality of an overall strategy by the secret services and their collaborating institutions and individuals in order to appreciate the destructive impact they produce in the groups and individuals that fall victim to them." This is as much true today as it was true then, perhaps even more so!